Hesperornis is an extinct genus of flightless aquatic birds that lived during the late Cretaceous. Fossils have been found in Kansas and Canada. The first fossils had been dug out by Othniel C. Marsh himself during the famous “Bone Wars”. Hesperornis, a lesser-known discovery from that era, could reach 1,5m or even a little more in length. Being a primitive bird, its jaws bore teeth that were useful for catching their main prey – fish.
Hesperornis may have looked a little like extant penguins or cormorants and probably had a lifestyle similar to these. Its hind legs gave powerful drive necessary for hunting fish. Those feet are believed to have been lobed rather than webbed. From a physical point of view this probably was more effective. Hesperornis had highly degenerated forelimbs, actually they only had their lower arms left. They probably didn´t play a big role – at most during courtship or to support the birds steering through water.
Hesperornis has a guest appearance in one sequel of the famous and popular Primeval TV series. Primeval merchandise amongst others contains many different kinds of toys and action figures too – figures of main characters as well as of the animals appearing – who are main characters as well, if you want.
The master toys license for the TV show Primeval was awarded to Character Options who also produce a large range of highly successful Doctor Who Toys. I have no clue who was in charge of the look of the TV animals, and I don´t know about the figures´ sculptors either. But one thing is for sure: He or they did a great job!
Primeval Hesperornis is 8,5cm tall. Given a height of 1,5m in nature, this means the figure´s scale is 1:17. It stands well balanced on its hind legs, attentively eyeing up the ancient shorelines. It has a credible colouring, ranging from an overall black / grey colour over courtship (?) red around the eyes to a dark yellow beak. A nice pattern adorns the neck. Hesperornis´ vivid pose, standing on its legs with the wings fold out, looks credible at first sight. But scientists consider the pose as highly unlikely. Hesperornis was already too well adapted to aquatic lifestyle to stroll around at land like a duck this way. And who knows if the wings could have been spread like this? Yet the figure does not look as unlikely as some of Dougal Dixon´s (much appreciated!) creations. As for scientific correctness, another disadvantage of the figure is the beak: It is probably too long. It looks a little too bloodthirsty for my taste, too. All those qualities are not really downers after all. Quite the contrary: They contribute to a credible flightless prehistoric bird figure. How close it really comes to the real Hesperornis is another question. It is nearly the same as with JP Velociraptor.
Hesperornis is an unusual choice for prehistoric bird figures. Terror birds normally have the biggest chances for reappearing as toys. This makes Hesperornis a hilarious variety for every collection. As much as I know, there are at least two versions of Primeval Hesperornis, differing in pose. As far as I know the figure isn´t being sold seperately but in sets with other figures. They can still be bought on amazon for example. Single copies probably show up on ebay now and then.
Bonus: Primeval Hesperornis in front of Heinrich Harder´s “Boelsche Tiere der Urwelt” painting from 1900
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